Post-mortem

Today’s session was far less euphoric than yesterday’s. I did manage to write a fair amount, but I also spent a lot of time poring over Byatt’s text, counting and identifying citations–in short rather mimicking the protagonist Phineas G. Nanson’s activities.

I realized I wasn’t yet theoretically equipped to deal with the reproductions of post-mortem photographic images in the novel. I’ve done some searching, and have sent off an email to a colleague who knows a huge amount about photography, and am hoping to get a theoretical approach lined up on that lickety split. It turns out (as I almost expected) that there has been a resurgence of interest in memorial portraiture, and that there is even a company somewhere (Utah? Colorado?) that is reviving the practice. Wikipedia is where I started, but it didn’t end up leading me anywhere I really wanted to go. I don’t have access to the library databases from home (my own fault for not figuring out how to configure my machine), so I’ll have to wait until tomorrow when I’m on campus to track down scholarly literature on the topic.

In the meantime, I focused on the numerous (okay, 51) citations on fictive index cards in the text. 17 of them relate to Ibsen. I tried to work out how they relate to the fictional dramatic dialog earlier in the text, and also to say something about Byatt’s ethics of biography writing. I am trying to respond to a really good article, Lena Steveker’s “Imagining the ‘Other’–An Ethical Reading of A.S. Byatt’s Possession and The Biographer’s Tale.” The article has one blind spot, in my opinion, which is that Byatt’s ethics in regards to the historical or empirical characters (Ibsen, Linnaeus and Galton) is quite different from Phineas’ ethics in relation to Scholes Destry-Scholes.

Words written: 1009

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